Stanford Law Dean Jenny Martinez announced Wednesday that the diversity dean who scolded a federal judge during a protest melee is now on leave, but that the left-wing student activists who shouted down the judge will not be disciplined.
Instead, Ms. Martinez said that the law school will require all students to attend a half-day session on “freedom of speech and the norms of the legal profession.” The school will also develop a more detailed policy on permissible forms of protest.
Ms. Martinez also refused to walk back her March 11 apology to U.S. District Judge Kyle Duncan, who was jeered and continually interrupted by a crowd of about 100 student protesters at a March 9 lecture hosted by the conservative Stanford Federalist Society.
“I recognize that the course I have chosen will not please everyone, not least of which those who have demanded that I retract my apology to Judge Duncan and those who have demanded that students be immediately expelled,” said Ms. Martinez in a 10-page memo to the Stanford Law School community.
“But this is the course I believe best furthers our obligations as legal educators, charged with training future lawyers and preparing them to participate in a profession that undergirds the very fabric of our democracy and the rule of law,” she said.
Her decision to address the matter came after students papered her classroom last week with messages like “we have free speech rights too” while critics, including Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, called on Stanford to punish the students who disrupted Judge Duncan’s speech.
Stanford Law Diversity Dean Placed On Leave, Student Disrupters Will Be Re-Educated Not Disciplined https://t.co/ezQV30Lcz8— William A. Jacobson (@wajacobson) March 22, 2023
Ms. Martinez said it would be virtually impossible to separate the students who “crossed the line into disruptive heckling” from those who “engaged in constitutionally protected non-disruptive protest, such as holding signs or asking pointed questions.”
She also cited the conduct of Tirien Steinbach, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, who intervened at the protest by telling the Trump-appointed judge that he was welcome but also asking him whether his appearance was worth “the pain that this causes and the division that this causes.”
The dean said that “the failure by administrators in the room to timely administer clear and specific warnings and instead to send conflicting signals about whether what was happening was acceptable or not (and indeed at one point to seemingly endorse the disruptions that had occurred up to that point by saying ‘I look out and say I’m glad this is going on here’) is part of what created the problem in the room and renders disciplinary sanction in these particular circumstances problematic.”
She said Ms. Steinbach “is currently on leave,” but provided no details, explaining that she could not comment on “pending personnel matters.”
The dean did say that Ms. Steinbach had received “hateful and threatening messages,” and that “actionable threats that come to our attention will be investigated and addressed as the law permits.”
“Finally, it should be obvious from what I have stated above that at future events, the role of any administrators present will be to ensure that university rules on disruption of events will be followed, and all staff will receive additional training in that regard,” Ms. Martinez said.
Judge Duncan blasted the protest as a “struggle session,” referring to the violent denunciation rallies in Maoist China, but he hasn’t let his experience stop him from speaking on university campuses.
He plans to deliver an address Friday at the University of Notre Dame entitled, “Free Speech and Legal Education in Our Liberal Democracy.”
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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